The AFL Trade period is upon us – and it’s shaping up to be as intriguing as ever.
While there’s a noticeable lack of top-tier players set to be on the move, especially compared to a wild 2022 edition 12 months ago, every club is set to be active over the next 10 days, whether it’s bringing in missing pieces to complete their best 23s for next year, or making plays to rise up the draft order to make the most of what is set to be a bumper crop of young guns.
So from the vice-captain wanting out of the premiers to West Coast’s pick 1 dilemma and everything in between, here are five burning questions ahead of this year’s silly season.
Not since Hawthorn engaged with Fremantle 20 years ago to trade Trent Croad and Luke McPharlin for the rights to Luke Hodge has the first draft pick loomed as likelier to change hands than in 2023 – and yes, that does include when North Melbourne shipped out last year’s top pick as part of the Jason Horne-Francis mega trade.
Why? Simple – the standout best player in the draft and presumptive pick 1 is young star Harley Reid, a Victorian long suspected of being a flight risk should he be picked up by a non-Victorian team.
And who holds the top pick this year? West Coast, of course – who have their eyes on local talent, and versatile tall, Daniel Curtin, who is set to be drafted at least in the top 10 after an exceptional under-18s carnival.
For the Eagles, trading that top pick for two or more high selections could be doubly beneficial, provided one of them is in the top five – it enables them to bring in Curtin plus one or two more young guns of their choice, while avoiding the risk of Reid following in Jason Horne-Francis’ footsteps and requesting a trade home in the years to come.
The Eagles have had eyes on Curtin for a long time, but so clear is Reid as the standout player of the 2023 draft that they are almost obliged to take him should they head to the draft with pick 1, a stance the club has suggested they will adhere to. That would mean Curtin heading elsewhere, too.
The Roar’s Dem Panopoulos made a great argument last month that the pick is worth more to the Eagles than anything they could trade it for.
“If the chance to take the top prospect comes once every quarter-decade, then it would be silly to not act upon that opportunity,” Dem wrote.
Still, it would be silly for the Eagles to not entertain the possibility of putting their biggest bargaining chip on the market – with Curtin a star in the making and homegrown to boot, they should definitely at least consider trading Reid rights… provided they get an offer too good to pass up.
Speaking of which…
There have been no shortage of suitors for the Reid pick, with North Melbourne and Hawthorn particularly keen – and blessed with high picks of their own – while Melbourne, who own Fremantle’s first-round pick thanks to the Luke Jackson trade, are also interested.
The catch is this: the only way the Eagles can guarantee having Curtin available should they trade pick 1 is to make sure the pick they receive in return is 2: it would be a disaster if they, for instance, did a deal with the Hawks to take their pick 3 and watched the Kangaroos draft Curtin with the pick 2 they’d retain.
The Roos have extra bargaining power on the Hawks’ offer, too, given both the AFL’s assistance package across the next two drafts and the looming free agency compensation for Ben McKay’s departure to Essendon. Currently, they have picks 2, 14 and 19 and three more first-rounders in the 2024 draft, as well as a pick as high as 3 for McKay.
It would be a huge get for the Roos to trade two of those picks for Reid – no doubt the Eagles will ask for 2 and 3 should the McKay compensation go according to reports, but given the top of this year’s crop features plenty of other talent, including goalkicking midfielder Zane Duursma and Tasmanian left-footer Colby McKercher, North would be silly to give up both even for Reid.
However, offering picks 2 and 14 for 1 would give the Eagles a guaranteed pick for Curtin plus another talented young gun, perhaps Claremont midfielder Riley Hardeman; while the Roos would pick up Reid, potentially one of Duursma and McKercher, and still have pick 19 in their arsenal and next year’s group of top picks.
Collingwood talked a strong if brief game after Adams declared his intention to be traded to Sydney, releasing a statement claiming the vice-captain is a ‘required player and leader’.
They’d be far from the first team to firmly state their desire to hold a player to his contract only to renege, and reports suggest out of respect for Adams’ contribution to the club and his peripheral role in the Pies’ midfield this season, the club will at least give every chance for a deal to be struck with the Swans.
However, in recent years the balance of trading contracted players has shifted back towards the clubs: Tom Papley, Joe Daniher, Josh Dunkley, Bobby Hill and Jeremy Sharp are just some examples of players forced to return after seeking trades when no deals could be made.
Of that group, though, only Papley remained once their contracts were up – Sharp is widely expected to head to Fremantle anyway this off-season – which might prompt a shift around the league.
Adams isn’t the only one in this boat, with Mabior Chol near certain to head to Hawthorn despite being locked in at Gold Coast for two more years, while Zac Fisher has requested a trade to North Melbourne for a more substantial deal than the two years left on his Carlton contract. Brodie Grundy, too, is expected to be at the Swans next year, with perhaps the bigger consideration in that deal with Melbourne the percentage of his salary his new club pays as opposed to what the Demons receive in exchange.
Adams would be a more than handy acquisition for the Swans; with Callum Mills set to miss a chunk of the early rounds, the 30-year old would bolster a midfield group that struggled on the inside in 2023, and allow Luke Parker to spend more time as a dangerous mid-sized marking option in attack.
With a three-year deal on the table, Sydney clearly rate Adams enough to try and poach him – but they’re unlikely to want to break the bank for him, and without any salary cap hindrances as in their Adam Treloar and Grundy trades, the Pies can afford to drive a hard bargain.
It makes for the most fascinating trade on the table over the next week, and one that could go either way.
Gut feel? Adams becomes a Swan, and the Pies receive a future first-rounder in return (and maybe give a second- or third-rounder back) – but it’ll drag into the second week.
The Western Bulldogs have made no secret of their desire to get into the top five of the draft – and with Gold Coast looking for as many picks as possible to satisfy a looming early bid on Academy prospect Jed Walter, the Suns’ top pick is on the table for the second year in a row.
Unlike 2022, though, this one won’t be available through a salary dump – the Suns’ position is far stronger this time around. So too, apparently, is the Dogs’ desperation for that pick, currently sitting at 4 (it might drop as low as 6 given North Melbourne’s impending McKay compensation and an early bid on Walter).
According to reports, they’re prepared to give up three first-rounders for that single pick: their two this year, currently sitting at 10 and 17 and with the second coming through last year’s trade with Brisbane that cost them Josh Dunkley, and their first-rounder in 2024 as well.
At face value, it seems like an awful lot… unless the Dogs have their eyes on a Duursma or McKercher, or are prepared to roll the dice on diminutive goalsneak Nick Watson to give their misfiring forward line some extra strength at ground level.
The Suns would also be mad to pass that up, given Walter is a likely top-five pick they’ll be receiving anyway; Melbourne also have a slew of top picks, including two inside the top 13 (one from last year’s deal with Fremantle for Luke Jackson) and four in the top 32.
But the Dogs appear the frontrunners – and for perhaps the first time ever, the Suns seem well placed to actually win a pick swap.
After last year’s trade period was wall to wall action, featuring 36 players switching teams, a mega-trade and some major stars on the move from Josh Dunkley to Jason Horne-Francis, it’s fair to say this season will be… less wild.
There are still enough mooted moves to keep this from being the dullest trade period on record, but the talent pool is certainly spread far thinner than it has been in recent seasons: when the pick of the free agency crop is McKay and the biggest star looking for a new home probably Adams, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about.
Litle wonder the Clayton Oliver story drove everyone wild for a few days until it was finally nipped in the bud by Melbourne – no doubt the friction between club and player was real, but with a lack of any other major trade rumours the story took on a life of its own and likely got more thoroughly analysed and investigated than it would have in other circumstances.
Unless the Bulldogs and Bailey Smith do part ways, or GWS make a shock salary cap call and offload Nick Haynes or maybe even Lachie Whitfield, it’s hard to envisage the sort of mid-trade period bombshell that could shake up the inevitable dull start: last year, Horne-Francis shocked the footy world by requesting a trade at pretty much this exact time, but it was the mega-trade that saw Pick 1, Junior Rioli and a slew of other assets change hands that really got everyone excited.
There’s still a Pick 1 on the table, and Tom Doedee, Jade Gresham, McKay and Liam Henry could all prove to be great additions for their looming new teams. But this will probably be a trade period that becomes known more for the quantity of moves than the quality of the players involved.
The Roar will be running a daily blog throughout the 2023 AFL Trade Period, bringing you all the news as it happens and every trade or free agency signing as they are announced. For up-to-date information on your team and all your favourite players, be sure to check out our official AFL Trade Rumours page.